Float Pool Nurse: A Comprehensive Guide to Floating

Float pool nurses are an essential part of the healthcare team because they are able to fill in the gaps when there are nurse staff shortages.

Float Pool nurse- a picture of two nurses talking.

If you’re a nurse looking for new opportunities to optimize your work-life balance, consider becoming a float pool nurse. Float pool nurses are in high demand due to the current nursing shortage. They can enjoy many benefits, such as flexible scheduling, competitive salaries, and diverse work environments that allow for continuous learning and career growth.

Table of Contents: 


  • Float pools exist to cover the gap created by nursing staff shortages
  • These nurses function the same as traditional RNs, however, they may be required to work in any department where nurses are needed
  • Float pool nurses may experience many benefits regarding schedule flexibility, salary, and a better work-life balance

Float pool nurse- a picture of a nurse tending to a child in a hospital bed.







What is a nurse float pool? 

A nurse float pool is a staffing method that healthcare organizations use to cover staff shortages. A nursing float pool will consist of a catalog (or “pool”) of qualified registered nurses who only work on-call. These nurses work on an as-needed basis instead of full-time, and they are limited to one specific healthcare organization. 

What does a float pool nurse do?

Float pool nurses, just like travel nurses, are an important part of the healthcare team because they play a large role in keeping a healthcare organization properly staffed and running smoothly. They are responsible for providing direct patient care, as well as coordinating with other members of the healthcare team. 

These nurses must be able to think on their feet and be adaptable to changing circumstances. For example, on Monday, a nurse floater could work in the emergency unit, and on Tuesday, they could be needed to work in the geriatrics unit. They must also be able to maintain a high level of professional competence and compassion. In short, float nurses play a vital role in ensuring that patients receive the best possible care in whichever healthcare setting they find themselves in.

Responsibilities include: 

Floating nurse duties vary depending on the needs of the hospital or healthcare facility in which they are employed. The responsibilities of float pool RNs may include 

  • Caring for patients with a wide range of conditions
  • Providing medication and treatments 
  • Performing assessments
  • Documenting and communicating patient care

Float nurses must be able to work independently and be comfortable taking directions from multiple healthcare team members. They must also have excellent communication skills and be able to establish trust with patients and families. The ability to provide high-quality care in a fast-paced environment is essential for these nurses.

Float pool nurses - picture of doctors speaking with nurses.







Job outlook for float pool nurses: 

The job outlook and expected growth for float pool nurses are optimistic because they correlate to the job growth and outlook all RNs will experience throughout the next decade, in addition to the growing, nationwide demand for more healthcare professionals. 

How much do float pool nurses make? 

A float pool nurse’s salary will largely depend on the state in which they work. However, ZipRecruiter says the annual salary for a float nurse can reach as high as $128,000 per year, but the average pay range is between $70,500 (25th percentile) and $99,500 (75th percentile). The top earners make around $125,000+ annually (90th percentile). There is a great opportunity for advancement and increased pay based on skill level, location, and years of experience.

Based on the data above, the following are estimates of a float pool nurse’s salary:

  • Entry salary: Hourly: $37.50/Annual: $70,500
  • Mid-level salary: Hourly: $52.93/Annual: $99,500
  • Top-level SalaryHourly: $66.49/Annual: $125,000

How to become a float pool nurse

If you are interested in becoming a float pool nurse, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, these nurses need to be able to think on their feet and be comfortable with change. They also need to have excellent communication skills and be able to work well as part of a team. In addition, float nurses should be able to handle stress and be able to work independently when needed. If you have these qualities, float pool nursing may be your perfect career.

  1. Graduate from an accredited nursing program. An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing is required.
  2. Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). This exam tests your knowledge of the principles of nursing and ensures a nurse’s competency.
  3. Apply for (or maintain) your RN state licensure through your state’s board of nursing.
  4. Acquire any certifications required by your employer, for example, Basic Life Support (BLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), or Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certifications. Though many employers will require ample experience in some specialty areas before working as a floating nurse, so if you have a couple of years of experience, it will have you more prepared to succeed as a float nurse. 

Float pool nurses - picture of a nurse checking a mature female patient's blood pressure.







The benefits of working as a float pool nurse

A large benefit of being a float nurse is that you typically have more control over your schedule. Since you are not assigned to a specific unit, you can often choose when you work and have more flexibility with your hours. This can be a great way to balance work and life commitments. However, in case you want to work full-time as a floating nurse, there are nursing agencies that provide just that with competitive pay, PTO, and benefits included.   

Another great thing about being a float nurse is that you have the opportunity to work in a variety of different units. This means nurse floaters will have the opportunity to treat a diverse range of patients in various healthcare settings. This can be a great way to learn new skills, expand your knowledge base, and grow your professional network. If you are looking for a rewarding career as an RN, float pool nursing may be the perfect option for you.

Pros and cons of working in a nurse float pool

On the one hand, it can offer a high degree of flexibility in terms of hours and assignments. This can be a great option for nurses who want to pick up extra shifts or who have other commitments outside of work. 

On the other hand, working in a float pool can also be unpredictable and may require nurses to work with unfamiliar staff and patients. In addition, float pool nurses may not have the same opportunities for career advancement as those who work in a specific unit or department. Ultimately, whether or not working in a float pool is right for you depends on your individual needs and preferences.

Pros Cons
√ Flexible working hours X Career advancement may be hindered
√ Competitive wage X Unpredictable schedule
√ Diverse opportunities X Job insecurity because of temporary assignments
√ Work-life balance X Less specialized expert care
√ New routines X Limited relationships with coworkers and patients
√ Learn new skills X May work with unfamiliar staff 


Float pool nurses - picture of a nurse documenting information in a hospital room.








Where does a float pool nurse work? 

As a float pool nurse, you will work in many places throughout the hospital. This can be the emergency room, maternity ward, pediatric unit, operating room, or any other department where nurses are needed. Floating nurses often cover full-time nurses who are absent or need to switch shifts. You may also find these nurses going between various clinics outside of the hospital setting as well. 

Shift requirements

A floater nurse will have more control over their availability; however, the baseline is typically an 8-12 hour shift. These are the typical shifts but they may vary:

  • 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • 3 p.m. – 11 p.m.
  • 11 p.m. – 7 a.m.
  • 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • 7 p.m. – 7 a.m.

Your Next steps

How to join a nursing float pool:

To join a float pool you are required to have an active and fit RN license, which ensures you’ve passed the NCLEX, graduated from an accredited nursing program, and are in good standing with the state’s board of nursing. 

Many staffing agencies supply float pool nurses to healthcare organizations, like Cedars Sinai or AMN Healthcare. Also, many healthcare organizations directly hire floating nurses, so be on the lookout for job boards on sites like Indeed and Incredible Health

Helpful tip: Google search “Registered Nurse Float Pool agency” + “your state” to find results of nursing float pool agencies in your state. 

Float Pool Nurses - picture of a nurses pushing a hospital bed down the hall with urgency.









1. How does a floating nurse differ from a full-time nurse? 

Many nurses enjoy the challenges and rewards of a float pool. These nurses are typically experienced RNs who can work well under pressure and adapt to changing situations. Float nurses function the same as full-time nurses; the only difference is really in their contracts and schedules. However, a floating nurse will experience a year of nursing completely differently than a regular RN who remains in their specific position amongst their healthcare team.  

A floating nurse will have opportunities to work in a variety of different healthcare settings and treat a wider range of patients, whereas a regular RN will likely maintain the same routine and duties. 

2. Where are the highest-paying cities for floating pool nurses?

The states who offer the highest paying salary for floating pool nurses:

  1. Alaska – $82,753
  2. California – $82,457
  3. District of Columbia – $82,110
  4. New Jersey – $81,616
  5. Massachusetts – $80,317

These cities offer the highest annual salary for floating pool nurses:

  1. Atkinson, NE – $119,583 
  2. New York City, NY – $104,957
  3. Bridgehampton, NY – $103,084
  4. Great Neck Gardens, NY – $100,351
  5. Boston, MA – $99,516
  6. Deer Park, CA – $99,137
  7. Green River, WY – $98,355
  8. Juneau, AK – $98,250
  9. Quincy, MA – $97,344
  10. Queens, NY – $97,195

3. How can float pool nursing hinder your career?

Being a float pool nurse may hinder your career growth because of the nature of the work. It could be tough to network, demonstrate skills, and move up through the ranks when you’re practicing in different facilities with different healthcare teams at such a random frequency. For float pool nurses, routines are fleeting, therefore, it is challenging for them to consistently perform the same duties from day to day. This will impact the opportunities they have in terms of career advancement because it is more likely that an employer will advance a full-time nurse before a float pool nurse. 

4. Which type of nurse is best to join a float pool? 

Float pool nursing isn’t for everyone. Float pool nurses typically have experience in multiple areas of nursing, and they must be able to adapt quickly to new situations of all kinds. This isn’t unlike your traditional RN; however, it is dually necessary for float nurses because they can be working in different departments from day to day– which is unlike a traditional RN who is typically designated to one specific unit.

In addition, float pool nurses must be able to work independently and be comfortable taking direction from multiple healthcare team members. They must also have excellent communication skills and be able to establish trust with patients and families. The ability to provide high-quality care in a fast-paced environment is essential for float pool nurses.

5. Can float nurses work full-time? 

The answer to this question depends on your respective employer. The quick answer is yes, however, that is not always the case because there is no way of predicting when a staff shortage will occur. So, if you are employed through a nurse-staffing agency, like Cedars Sinai or AMN Healthcare, you’ll have a better opportunity to work full-time. Also, it is worth noting, many employers and agencies provide benefits for float pool nurses– with competitive compensation, PTO, sick days, and health insurance. 

Float pool nurses - picture of a nurse elbowing-bumping a child patient









Float pool nurses are an important part of the nursing staff at many hospitals. They provide primary care coverage for regular staff nurses who are out sick, on vacation, or otherwise unavailable. These nurses may also be called upon to assist in the case of a sudden increase in patient volume. As a result, these nurses must be well-versed in a variety of nursing procedures and be able to adapt to new situations quickly.

While float nurses typically work in the hospital where they are employed, they may also be asked to travel to other hospitals within the same healthcare system. This allows them to gain valuable experience and expand their skill set. In addition, float nurses often have the opportunity to work with a variety of different patients, providing them with a unique perspective on healthcare.

If you’re interested in leveling up your nursing career, check out our affordable and accredited online nursing programs where we offer tuition payment plans starting as low as $250 per month for our RN to BSN program, $325 per month for our MSN program, and $375 per month for our DNP program

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